A Note on Guanyin

Guanyin is often cited by popular (Western) authors as the Goddess of Mercy (TM), and as a manifestation of the Divine Feminine. The problem is that she’s just…not. Guanyin is a bodhisattva, not a deva. She represents unconditional compassion, not mercy…and there is no “Divine Feminine” in Buddhism (and no Divine Masculine).

OM MANI PADME HUM

 

Ways Religious Syncretism Happens

Perhaps the most obvious form of syncretism in my own practice is Honji Suijaku, or the merging of Shinto with Buddhism. Benzaiten-sama was the Indian goddess Sarasvati, but was absorbed into the Japanese pantheon after becoming associated with the goddess Ichikishima-hima. She was eventually so thoroughly nativized that she was again syncretized with a Buddhist figure – this time Kannon, better known as Guanyin.

The Lefthander's Path

Syncretism is when you combine two things together to create a new thing, and it’s very common in many religions. It happens both historically and in modern times, for a variety of reasons. I’ll start by discussing historical examples, and will cover ways to approach syncretism yourself in another post.

Syncretism in the Roman Empire– We’ll Go to War with You and Then Add your Gods to Our Pantheon!

As Romans added territory to their Empire, they encountered people who worshiped other gods. Being polytheists, they didn’t really care so long as the Gauls, Germannii and so forth obeyed them. But the Romans liked to say “oh, that god you call Wodan is kinda like Mercurius”, just as they had done earlier with the Greek gods. This is referred to as Interpretatio Romana. Sometimes these foreign gods were adopted into Roman religion, often with Romanized names. Sometimes we…

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Guan Yin

The Tao of Kemet

Guan-Yin-Poo-Sat

I love Guan Yin.

Guan Yin is a goddess of mercy and compassion who is mainly associated with Buddhism, but her following is so widespread that many Taoists also worship her.

Maybe it’s because I have such a difficult time reigning in my own anger, but I love her.

Being a goddess she has many origin stories, and my favorite involves her as the princess Miaoshan; who ends up being executed after repeatedly disobeying the selfish wishes of her father, the king.

During her execution the executioner repeatedly fails to kill her. Because she is so good, his weapons keep shattering upon impact with her body. Eventually he attempts to strangle her, and she feels so badly about what will happen to him if he fails his duty that she allows him to kill her. A spectral tiger then appears to take her to Hell, but upon her arrival Hell…

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